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Digging History

Israeli archaeologists uncover 3,300-year-old coffin, gold signet

  • gold scarab 5.jpg

    The gold scarab found at the burial site. (Clara Amit/IAA)

  • clay coffin 1.jpg

    The clay coffin at the time of its discovery in the field. (Dan Kirzner/IAA)

  • coffin lid 2.jpg

    Parts of the coffinâs lid after an initial cleaning. (Clara Amit/IAA)

  • skyview 3.jpg

    A general view of the excavation area. (Skyview Company/IAA)

  • bronze dagger bowl 7.jpg

    A picture of the bronze dagger and bowl. (Clara Amit/IAA)

Archaeologists uncovered a Bronze Age ceramic coffin and a golden scarab in Israel's Jezreel Valley, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced Wednesday.

A ring with an Egyptian scarab seal was found with the name of the crown worn by Egyptian pharaoh Seti I, who ruled Egypt in the Late Bronze Age. Seti I was the father of Ramses II and some scholars identify him as the pharaoh in the biblical story of the Israelite's exodus from Egypt. The seal of Seti I helped the archaeologists date the site back to the thirteenth century B.C.

A clay coffin with an adult skeleton was also found at the site.

"We discovered a unique and rare find: a cylindrical clay coffin with an anthropoidal lid (a cover fashioned in the image of a person) surrounded by a variety of pottery consisting mainly of storage vessels for food, tableware, cultic vessels and animal bones," IAA excavation directors, Dr. Edwin van den Brink, Dan Kirzner and Dr. Ron Be’eri said in a press release.

It was custom to use these items as offerings for the gods and the artifacts were also used to provide the dead with sustenance in the afterlife, they explained.

Pottery, a bronze dagger and bowl and hammered pieces of bronze were found buried next to the coffin.

"Since the vessels interred with the individual were produced locally, we assume the deceased was an official of Canaanite origin who was engaged in the service of the Egyptian government," the researchers said. "Another possibility is that the coffin belonged to a wealthy individual who imitated Egyptian funerary customs."

Only several anthropoidal coffins have previously been uncovered in Israel, they added. The most recent were found 50 years ago in the Gaza's Deir el-Balah.

"An ordinary person could not afford the purchase of such a coffin," the researchers continued. "It is obvious the deceased was a member of the local elite."

The grave sites of two men and two women were also found near the coffin. The discovery confirms Egyptian control of the Jezreel Valley in the thirteenth century B.C.

The discoveries were made during a routine salvage excavation conducted by the IAA prior to the construction of a main pipeline that will convey natural gas to Ramat Gavriel in Migdal Ha-Emek in the North of Israel.
 

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